Life is all about setting expectations

On day 1 of a project at McKinsey, during the kick-off team meeting, one guy said, “I will not touch my laptop on weekends.”

He explained that he was divorced and got custody of his daughter only on weekends. So work was out of bounds as he wanted to fully spend that time with her.

While weekend work was not encouraged at McKinsey, it was common for some work to spill over to Saturdays. This was the first time I saw anyone flat-out refuse to work on weekends.

And how did it impact his career? Not at all – everyone accepted it without even a discussion. And in the two years at McKinsey, my colleague had never touched work on weekends. Yet, his career was flourishing.

We often assume that we HAVE to compromise our personal priorities because of work. But in reality, it is all about setting expectations. Whether it is late-night emails or weekend work, if we help people understand why we can’t do it, they will accept it.

This is not about being lazy or shirking work. In the case of my colleague above, he made sure that he worked hard enough from Mon to Fri to not leave anything pending. He was not refusing work – he was merely doing it in a different way.

Life is all about setting expectations. Learn to draw boundaries. When you respect your boundaries, people will also learn to do that.

– Rajan

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